In October 2014, I published Snapchat: Do those pictures really disappear forever? as a way to introduce this relatively new app that was gaining popularity at an alarming speed. As I read over this blog today, I realize some of the basic information still holds true. However, 2.5 years later, Snapchat has become the clubhouse leader as the preferred app among teens. For many, this app has become more than simply a fun way to share pictures, but also a primary mode of communication. Most teens prefer to ‘snap’ someone rather than sending a traditional text (did I just refer to text as ‘traditional’?).
Just how popular is Snapchat? Here are some interesting stats and fun facts (as published by Omnicore, January, 2017) :
71% of Snapchat users are under 34 years old, 45% are between 18-24, & 23% are between 13-17
Total number of monthly active users = 300 million
Total number of daily active users = 100 million
Average time spent in the app per user on a daily basis = 25-30 minutes
According to a report by Statista (spring of 2017), Snapchat ranks as the ‘most important social media network of teens in the United States’. In my own home, it has proven to be an excellent way to stay connected on a daily basis with my son who is away at college. He is not a person who enjoys phone conversation, but I can send him a quick snap of the dog or a fun selfie with a caption ‘thinking of you’ or ‘miss you’. He will always return the snap with one of his own giving me some visibility into what’s going on in his life.
As the app has gained immense popularity, Snapchat has continued to add to its features and functions in an effort to make it an exciting place to be in the online world. These new features have increased its appeal to social media audiences, of which teens make up a high percentage.
One way Snapchat keeps it users engaged on a daily basis is through Snapstreaks. A Snapstreak is a number which indicates how many days in a row two people have snapped each other. The number appears to the right of a friend’s name. There are emoji’s that go along with that number that indicate whether there is a streak going or if the streak is about to expire.
The question on my mind is this: Does a streak put a measurable number on a friendship for Snapchat users? Personally, I worry about the tendency of teens to measure their perceived importance or popularity among their peers by an arbitrary social media number. Are streaks becoming just another social media ploy that increases the social pressure our children feel in an effort to promote the use of the app which ultimately leads to more revenue for Snapchat? What is the cost (pun intended) to our children’s relationships, self esteem, and confidence? When I am in schools, I often hear kids tell me how many streaks they have going and how many days they have with the streak.
I have heard both sides of the argument from teens themselves. Recently, at a school in New York, one middle school boy told me that ‘streaks are stupid and cause people to send meaningless snaps’. He went on to tell me that he has received snaps of complete darkness with the word ‘#streak’ included. He described feeling that the person cared more about a streak than truly connecting with him.
On the flip side of this discussion, I asked a college student what he thought of Snapstreaks. He said this:
I feel like it can help people who are bad at keeping friendships going a little more accountable in the relationship. However, I don’t like when the snap is sent ONLY to keep the streak alive.
While Snapstreaks generate a number that can be viewed as a measures of the value of a friendship, a Snapchat score provides a different analytic. A score is basically a number that measures the number of snaps a user has sent and received, stories that have been posted, and some other factors.
While a Snapchat score does not seem to carry the same importance and implied meanings of a Snapstreak, it still gives a number that can be perceived by teens as a measure of popularity and self importance. For example, my Snapchat score is about 1,500, but my son has a score of 161,000. Personally, I could care less about this. However, I worry that a teen might draw some fairly inaccurate conclusions from a number that was devised to increase traffic on the app and generate more advertising revenue. Think of all the numbers that are generated for our children as a result of social media activity…followers, likes, Snapstreaks, Snapscore, friends. It is a lot to manage and navigate for anyone much less our children.